It gives me great pleasure to proclaim myself as a recovered multitasker. I now want to pass along what I’ve learned so you can stop multitasking and get more done (just like me). Once I understood the pitfalls and detriment in this beloved style of productivity, I made an about face and ran the other direction. Being lulled back into the seductive nature of it is a constant battle but like the rest of our challenges, it’s worth the fight.
Studies indicate that we cut off our creative flow when we constantly switch “piles” or focus. We think we are rockstars while we juggle seven different things, and in a sense we are, but at what cost? Doing much of it half-ass, as I like to say, or missing critical details; forgetting a general concept and quite possibly creating barriers to our full creative force and certainly productivity. Don’t misunderstand me. I know that we have to spin different plates during the day and even during our work, whether at home or at an outside office. You have to take a call or answer an important email or stop to help with homework. External factors out of your control are just that, out of your control. I’m talking about designing a situation and work environment that sets the framework for more focused thinking and higher productivity, as in getting to the end of the day and actually accomplishing meaningful, worthwhile work. Here are a few tips (seven, of course).
- Do not check your phone every time it beeps or simply turn off notifications while you’re working. How many times a day do you check your phone for texts, emails or anything else?
- Close your social media tabs on your computer so you don’t sneak a check on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (and, no checking on your phone either).
- Put away other piles of paper, magazines, to do lists or anything related. Clean desk. Tidy up around your space so you are not visually distracted. If the project is important, don’t take calls from friends or anyone unrelated to your task. Critical and personal issues allowed, of course.
- Turn off your television, even if it’s just background noise.
- When you get uncomfortable or stuck, sit with it instead of moving on to something else right away. If you stay stuck, take a short walk or grab a healthy snack; sit outside for a few minutes or just take some deep breaths as you walk around your house and free up your thoughts. Sit back down and dive in. Finish what you started instead of starting something else. This one is critical because if you’re not careful, you will end your day with a bunch of busy-work and shuffling stuff and not enough of the “critical few” or 20-percent (of the 80/20 rule) that is necessary to feel accomplished and to see results. It’s about knowing that you added value to your day or to others.
- Give yourself a time deadline instead of leaving the task open-ended.
- If it’s truly time to move on to something else, put that particular project away (whatever that means to you) and clear your desk and work area for the next stream of creativity or focus.
When I stop to speak to my kids or husband or if I’m out, I focus on that conversation and either turn away from my computer or put my phone down. Even our gyms are guilty. They provide TV’s in just about every area so you can not focus on your workout. Good grief.
And now that I’m on my soapbox, how often do you see our fellow humanoids speaking to each other while periodically checking their cell phones (in essence, multitasking)? Are we all that important that we have to be connected to the latest post, email or text, 24-7? I’ve fallen into that trap. Now I just get super annoyed when someone does it to me. At least say “excuse me, I need to take this” or how ’bout “excuse me, you’re really not that interesting so I’m going to check my phone for something better while we talk.”
Singletasking is cool, yo. So, tell me about your tasking challenges and how you handle distractions or if you dare to share, give us your worst multitasking blunder.